I remember being introduced to the story of Solomon Northrup — a free black New Yorker who was kidnapped in the 1840s and forced into slavery in the South — in middle school. Through passages from his 1853 memoir and its PBS movie adaptation starring Avery Brooks, I came to understand a new sense of dreadful injustice with the difficult subject matter. Hitting the big screen for the first time, inscrutably, the tale takes form in Steve McQueen’s 12 Years a Slave, which has released its first trailer.
Those familiar with McQueen’s work, notably his 2011 heavy-hitter Shame, might be surprised to see how densely animated 12 Years a Slave looks to be. While his previous picture was dauntingly internal, often stretching long, long scenes without a word or express action, McQueen’s new adaptation looks to be riddled with all of the material elements of Northrup’s experience, exacting a fairly traditional look at the heartbreaking story.
McQueen’s Shame star Michael Fassbender takes a role of acidic villainy as a plantation owner who apprehends and tortures Solomon (Chiwetel Ejiofor). The film collects a handful of drama’s best players, including Brad Pitt (who also stars opposite his Inglourious costar Fassbender in the upcoming The Counselor), Paul Giamatti, Benedict Cumberbatch, and Paul Dano, as well as some interesting choices in Scoot McNairy and Saturday Night Live‘s Taran Killam. Oh, and a casting bonus: Quvenzhane Wallis as Ejiofor’s daughter. Check out the trailer for a look at McQueen’s latest vision.